Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Subject to Change WITHOUT Notice

A customer came in on a Sunday looking for a printer. He had a printout from our website from the previous day stating the price was $79.99. However, the previous day was Saturday, and all our advertisements run from Sunday to Saturday. Since it was now Sunday, the old ad prices had expired and the sale price was no longer valid.

However, sometimes prices do carry over from ad to ad, so I took him back to the computer terminal and looked up the printer on our website to get a current price. But the price had indeed changed back to its usual full price of $99.99.

"But this is from yesterday," he says, holding up his printout.

"Right," I told him, "but our ads expire at the end of day on Saturday, so that's when this new price took effect."

"What time?" he asks me.

I wasn't quite sure why it was relevant, but whatever. "I honestly don't know. I'd have to assume at 12AM Sunday morning."

He points to the timestamp on his printout. "But this was printed before that. It says 10:43PM on it."

Again, no idea why he thought that was relevant. "Right, at that time, the price was still valid. You could've ordered it from the website at that price at that time."

Finally, he seems to give up. "Well, I'll just order it from HP, then. They have free shipping." We have free overnight shipping on orders over $50, but he didn't really give me a chance to tell him that. "They'll get my business," he says as he walks away.

I shrug and head through one of the aisles toward the front of the store. On my way, another customer stops me and asks me if we have an item in stock. I inform him I have to check our computer system and head up front to do that. The printer guy finds me there.

"Is there a manager here?" he asks. Pretty obvious where this is going.

"He's right over there," I said, pointing to the copy department. Our copy associate was on lunch, and due to restricted payroll, the manager had to cover the department until he returned. The customer heads over there and stands at the counter.

Knowing where this is going, I decided to save our manager a few minutes. While looking up my other customer's product, I picked up the phone and dialed the copy department. When the manager got a break in his conversation with his customer, he picked up. "Yeah?"

"Just letting you know that the guy waiting in front of you there in the blue hat is just going to complain that he missed the ad price on a printer," I informed him. "He's got a web printout from yesterday that he expected us to honor."

"OK," the manager says. "Thanks."

As a side note, we COULD have honored the price. But as I've said before, we have to take profitability into account. Most sales take items below cost - in other words, we lose money rather than make it. If we'd made the exception and sold him the printer at the sale price, we would've lost money rather than gained it. We only would've hurt ourselves.

And yes, I've heard the whole "making the customer happy so they'll come back" speech, but what many people who subscribe to that theory don't realize is that the majority of those customers don't think, "Hey, that store took care of me so I'll do all my shopping there!" Instead, they think, "Hey, that store let me get away with using an expired price because I complained. I'll just complain whenever I want something and they'll give it to me!" I've seen many a whining customer created from that theory (Bernie comes to mind). I really try to treat people fairly, so if we're going to charge the rest of our customers $99.99 for an item, we should charge this guy the same amount.

His attitude didn't help his case, either. Don't threaten to take your business elsewhere and expect me to cower to your wishes. You wanna shop elsewhere? No one's stopping you. Like I said, your purchase would've hurt more than it would've helped anyway.

Anyway, I hang up the phone and go back to looking up the item for my customer. While doing that, I can hear the manager explaining to him that advertisements run from Sunday to Saturday and that the price was no longer valid. That was all I heard.

About ten minutes later I found myself bringing a box up to the front for a waiting customer when I found the guy on our computer in the back studying the terms and conditions of the website. "Where in here does it say that your sales end at 12AM on Sunday mornings?"

"I have no idea, Sir," I told him bluntly. "I know it says it on the paper ads that go out every week."

And in a moment that I'm sure he thought signaled his shining victory, he made himself look even more like a fool with what followed.

"That's all I needed to hear," he says with a proud smile. "That's bait and tackle. It doesn't say when the prices are going to expire, it only says they can change without notice. I'm going to file a complaint," he says, heading toward the front. "I'm filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau against your store."

"Go ahead," I told him, smiling.

"I'm going to do it!" he says as though I had protested or something. "It's my right as a consumer!"

"I'm not stopping you," I said, following him toward the front with my box to where my customer was waiting.

He kept rambling as he finally left the store. I handed the box to my customer and went on my way. As I walked across the front of the store, the idiot's words began to sink in.

...Bait and tackle? I believe you meant bait and switch. Nice try, though.

...Wait, it says prices can change without notice?

I headed back to the terminal and looked at the screen. Sure enough, right there at the end of one of the paragraphs, were the words, "Prices and availability subject to change without notice."

...How stupid was this guy?

He practically TOLD me he didn't have a case! What kind of twisted logic made him think he had any grounds for a complaint against us?

Later on, the manager told me that he was going to offer to match the price, but the guy walked off before he could do so. So apparently, if the guy had just stayed calm and patient, he would've gotten his price.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/29/09: Your precious car is no more important than any other customers'. If you think it's OK to pull up in the fire lane, put your car in park and come in to shop with the engine still running, you're out of your mind. You and I both know that the "one thing" you need to get is going to turn into six items, a number of which you can't find on your own. Then you'll have to wait in line, then take your time pulling out exact change, and argue about the bill before you leave. Seriously, there's no need for that kind of disrespectful and pompous behavior. You'd save money on gas if you'd just park legally and shut off your car.

As for you ladies who send your kids in to do your shopping while you wait in front of the store with the car running, you either need to go park and watch the front door for your kids to return or get off your lazy rear-ends and do your shopping yourself. I don't care how quick you think your visit is going to be. NOTHING makes it OK for you to block the fire lane along with the entrance to the store while other customers who enter and exit the building are forced to inhale the fumes being pumped into the air by your unnecessary SUV.

The sad part about this is that nine times out of ten, there are open parking spots not ten feet away. LEGAL parking spaces.

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